Regardless of your home’s age, many electrical problems in your home will show warning signs before they become serious. Knowing what these signs are can help you make repairs to prevent a dangerous situation that might lead to electrocution or property damage. You may be able to troubleshoot some of these electrical issues yourself, but other problems may need professional diagnosis and repair.
Circuit breakers are designed to trip when a circuit is overloaded. By shutting off the electrical supply, the breaker prevents wires from overheating and potentially starting a fire. Breakers can also trip when they become old. Occasional tripping can indicate simple overloads. Try plugging the appliance into a different circuit. If a breaker trips frequently, you should consult a professional.
Working inside an electrical panel requires skill. Even with the main breaker shut off, power is still entering the panel. Leave this type of work to an experienced professional. Never replace a circuit breaker or fuse with a higher rated one because this can cause overheating and fire.
For homes dating from the 1950s to 1990, check your panel to see whether it or the breakers are manufactured by Federal Pacific. The company’s Stab-Lok brand breakers are not considered safe. Check with your electrician for a recommendation or replacement.
If you feel a mild shock or tingle when touching an appliance, a ground fault in the appliance or the improper wiring may be a cause. If you notice a shock after crossing a carpeted surface, it may be from static, which is common in the winter and not cause for concern. You should, however, take other types of electrical shock seriously as you don’t want to risk the situation becoming worse.
Hot ceiling fixtures or flickering lights
You should occasionally check the area around your ceiling light fixtures for warmth because not all fixtures are well insulated. In addition, if you exceed the maximum recommended wattage for the bulb, the fixture can overheat. and too much heat buildup could pose a fire hazard. Switching to compact fluorescent light (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs provide one solution because these bulbs don’t produce as much heat as incandescent bulbs.
Flickering lights may be a sign of a defective or loose light bulb. If replacing the bulb doesn’t solve the problem, consult a licensed electrician. The fault may be in the light fixture. Also, either the connections to the fixture or the wiring in your electrical panel may be loose. This type of problem requires professional diagnosis to ensure a complete repair.
Switches or outlets
If you have light switches or receptacles that work only intermittently, the wiring may be loose or the device may be cracked internally. If a plug is loose in a receptacle, it can also pose a problem. If the plug partially falls out, an unsuspecting individual could accidentally receive a shock when unplugging the cord. You’ll need to have your wiring inspected to determine whether any loose connections exist, and you’ll need any defective devices replaced.
Burning odor or sparks
If you notice a burning odor coming from any outlets or switches, turn the power off at the electrical panel. Contact an electrician for appropriate repairs. The problem may be a faulty device, but it could also be a wiring or overload problem. A burning smell is a serious issue because it could indicate the start of an electrical fire. Receptacles or connected electrical cords that are warm to the touch are also a sign of an electrical problem. Do not use the receptacle until the situation has been repaired.
Occasional sparks when you first plug in an appliance are not unusual. Sparks that are large or happen frequently will indicate a problem with your outlet or the circuit. If you hear a popping sound, it may signal that a wire may be loose. Locating the loose wire in a circuit isn’t always easy. Diagnosing and repairing problems can be tricky, so you’ll need to follow safety procedures. For your safety and that of your home, you should consult a qualified electrician.
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For residential and commercial property inspections or HERS rating services in the Sacramento and Bay Area please contact Golden State Home Inspections at 800.441.0804 or visit: http://www.goldenstatehomeinspections.com